Lisa's Landscape & Design

Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time

Landscape Design Consultations Austin

Are you tired of looking at your yard not knowing where to begin? Let me give you 10 great reasons to call me for an educational landscape consultation.

  1. Lawn Care: Whether you want to remove your lawn completely or learn why your lawn never seems to be happy, I can help you come up with a solution, watering schedule and fertilization.

2. Plant selection: From full sun to full shade I know plants. Low water, low maintenance, native and adapted plants and  trees are my specialty. I can also teach you how and when to trim.

3. Outdoor living space: Allow me to create additional living spaces with clever solutions including stone options and installation details.

4. Privacy: Have a neighbor you would prefer not to see, or a noise issue that makes being outside unpleasant? Let me show you some plant and design selections that can address your needs with style.

5. Trees: Oak Wilt is epidemic in our area so I teach you how to properly trim Oaks and all trees as well as when to do it.

6: Water conservation: We all have to do our part and I provide valuable money-saving information on water conserving plants, designs and rain barrels.

7. Organic pest control and fertilization: I am certified in organic gardening and have. Whole host of great ways to control or improve just about everything. Why use chemicals when there are organic solutions to almost every problem?

8. Design: I will teach you to design your own space using basic measurements and the plant selection we compile during our visit.

9. You can do it yourself or take educated bids: If you are the type of person who really prefers to do it yourself and just need some direction a landscape consult is a perfect place to start. I give you step by step instruction including timing and where to purchase the materials you will need. If you plan to have the work done or take any bids you need to know what you are biding on and what you truly need. An educated consumer is a bad businesses worst nightmare. My job is to talk you out of “up sells” and unnecessary materials by showing you “all” of your options, not just the most profitable ones..

10. I can save you thousand in costly mistakes: Since I am not selling you anything my only goal is to educate you on your landscape. I help you stay in your budget, save money on unnecessary plants and materials and offer alternatives to costly hardscape finishes.

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Allow me to assist you in creating the space of your dreams. One hour with me can make all the difference between confusion and direction.

Before a consultation…

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Before, you cannot see the huge porch and the windows have no natural light from the crowded, over sized bushes.

After the design consultation

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After. Open, inviting, updated! Ready to enjoy, or sell for a premium.

Before: Desolate post-construction, outdated landscape in serious need of some love.

After: A Hill Country landscape indicative of the architectural aspects of the home and the beautiful Texas Hill Country topography.

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Add the best plants for our Central Texas planting zones 8a and 8b, education on soil and care and you are set for success!

Consultations are really fun and informative. They should be required for every home owner! I provide Landscape Consultations for Cedar Park, Leander, Round Rock, Pflugerville, Austin, Buda, San Marcos and Kyle. Depending on your area, a one hour consultation ranges from $100.00-$150 for an hour. Should you need more design or drawing time but don’t need a full design, a second hour can be bought at a discount. Should a full design be needed, the cost of this consult goes towards the cost of a full design. The average design ranges from $500-$1500 and you can find more information here. A two hour consult is also great deal for smaller spaces and generally allows for more detail on plant layout. Most only require a one hour consultation and we typically have time to discuss all of your needs, develop solutions and create a “basic sketch’ of the work to be done. Landscape consults are scheduled Monday – Friday mornings from 9:00 to 1:30. Summer hours are 9:30 – 12:30. If you would like to contact me to schedule your landscape consultation, give me a call at 512-733-7777 or send me an email at lisalapaso@gmail.com.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Lisa LaPaso

 

Beneficial Bugs “Get to know your friends”

Lizards, frogs and many beneficial insect eat the destructive pests in your garden. You need to be able to recognize who is who...Amphibians are hyper sensitive to chemicals so always use organics whenever possible.

Lizards, frogs and many beneficial insect eat the destructive pests in your garden. You need to be able to recognize who is who…Amphibians are hyper sensitive to chemicals so always use organics whenever possible.

Beneficial insects play a very important role in our biological warfare. One of the best reasons to employ the bug world  to fight your pest fights is that chemical insecticides in the form of a broad spray or granular broadcast kill the good guys and can make matters worse.  It has also been shown that destructive insects are actually becoming immune to chemical pesticides do to the gross over use in tremendous volume, which is obviously counterproductive in a large number of ways.  Chemicals destroy not just the pests, but people, water and soil too.  It is very important to get to know your friends and foes in the garden.  When you know who is actually working for you, you can make better choices in the way you tackle a potential pest problem.  For example, spraying a pesticide over a large area kills your bees, lady bugs, spiders, lizards and any other soft bodies creature who comes in contact with it.  Do you really want your children and pets around that?  Best part is (not really the best part…being facetious) is that when the destruction is done on land, it dissipates into the air as well…lose, lose.

You can order many bugs online to add to your arsenal, and others like Ladybugs, beneficial Nematodes and Praying Mantis can be purchased at local nurseries and released in your yard.  (How cool is that!)  You can also order them online at The Bug Lady and some natural pesticide at Planet Natural online. Many of your local nurseries will carry much of this as well so always support your local business whenever possible and if they do not carry these items, ask them to do so!

Lady bugs eat Aphids, in fact, an adult Ladybug can eat up to 5000 Aphids in its lifetime. While you may easily recognize a

These are the Aphids being munched on by Lady Bug Larvae...This is why it is important to know who your allies are!

These are the Aphids being munched on by Lady Bug Larvae…This is why it is important to know who your allies are!

lovely Lady Beetle, you may not recognize its eggs that are attached to the bottom of a leave in a yellow egg cluster, or that it’s larvae, that can eat a good amount of Aphids themselves, looks like a tiny ugly alligator (photo right). This is why it so important to know who your allies are.

One example of a pest or visitor I don’t mind sharing with is a caterpillar that will some day be a butterfly. Swallow Tails (caterpillar shown below) love dill and every year I plant plenty so they can have their fill.  However, the Tomato Horn Worm is another story.  While the  Horn Worm will become a Sphinx Moth (Hummingbird Moth) they are voracious and should be controlled as they can eat an entire tomato plant or Penta overnight.  I choose the pick and flick method. Yes, it is just how it sounds, I pick them off the plant and flick them off my property, or I escort them down the road to a field away from my house if my son catches me as he believes you should find them a new home ( and he is right), but  you may choose to employ the Trichogramma Wasp.  This wasp lays it eggs in the caterpillars and many other pests and when the eggs hatch, they feast on the host. Pretty gross really, but after you have lost enough food to the critters…it feels more like tit-for-tat  ;-/  The variety of wasp depends on your location and you can ask for the ones for your area when you order them.

I will be a beautiful Black Swallowtail one day. Please protect me so I can pollinate your flowers later.

I will be a beautiful Black Swallowtail one day. Please protect me so I can pollinate your flowers later.

Now maybe you’re not the buying bugs type, so at the very least you need to get to know who your friends are. There is a list of beneficial bugs you can find on-line, there are plenty of books, and you can find a short list of both good and bad bugs on a handy laminated single page you can buy at any bookstore for about $6. You can keep the page somewhere convenient and when you see a bug you don’t recognize, you can identify if it is a friend or a foe.  If it is a friend, thank him for his kindness ;-), if it is a foe, you will know who it is and you can learn how to attack it. (organically of course )

Now, say you have found a huge breakout of Aphids, (which by the way can be controlled by a hard spray of water from the hose) you can get your Lady Beetles and set them free on that plant/plants, and they will go right to work.  If it is a pest you identify but are unable to locate a beneficial bug to “sick on it”, you can be sure your Praying Mantis will take on the job. They are ravenous and vicious and while they will make good work on the bad bugs, they aren’t choosy and will eat anything in their way, including good bugs or her partners head after she has mated. Ugh

However, if you locate a certain bug and realize that the infestation is too great and or aren’t going to purchase bugs, and you think you need to rely on chemical warfare, than you will know what you are treating and can treat only the affected plants, not the whole yard. You begin of course with organics, but  if the problem persists, you go to the chemicals as a last resort. There truly is an organic remedy for just about everything, so taking a daily stroll through the garden is not only therapeutic, but helps you see there is a problem before it is too big for an organic solution.

If you are on Facebook, please ck out my” Lisa’s Landscape & Design” Page and by pressing the “like” button you will get daily updates about all sorts of great info including pics of beneficial bugs and what they are hungry for.  Here is also a list of the good guys from the Mater Gardeners website.

Happy Gardening !!

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape & Design   (“like” me on Facebook!)                                                                                                                                                                 

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

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Edible Landscapes in Austin

I have said it for years and I’ll say it again, you have never tasted fruit, veggies or herbs until you eat them right from the garden, or grow it yourself. Store bought fruit and vegetables are picked prematurely so they arrive a proper color on the outside, but the inside can be very different. While a few things you may try here in Central Texas will be a swing and a miss, there are a ton of native plants and herbs that provide food for you and wildlife, while providing flowers all season.

Most people get bogged down with what a veggie, or herb bed should look like. The photo above is (from right to left), cilantro, Blaze Climbing Rose, Oregano, Rosemary, more flowering cilantro and dill in the front. The garden below is 80% edible including trees and flowers. it isn’t necessary to grow food in rows, the colors and textures pf herbs and even peppers and annual crops can be added to your perennial beds.

Edible landscapes don’t have to be square.

The front of this bed (above) is Kale and herbs, the remainder of the yard is fruit trees, herbs and perennial plants. The photo below is another example of stunning edible landscape with both feature and function. The two trees on the left are a Nectarine and an Apple with mint ground cover beneath them. On the right is a lemon and just out of the photo is a plum.

This clearly Xeriscape design is a phenomenal example of food in the low water landscape. Watered by drip lines only, there is a treasure trove of fruit trees, edible flowers and herbs that grow freely in the Central Texas Landscape and here are just a few of my faves…

Thyme, oregano, mints of all kinds, stevia, parsley, oregano, rosemary, basil, cilantro (in cooler months) and so many more are either annual or perennial, and flower in shades of pink, white and purple. Pungent herbs are also deer resistant and have proven themselves in high populations.

This Lemon Thyme with its variegated yellow and bright green leaves with its delicate puse/ lavender flowers. Blackberries do beautifully in the Central Texas Landscape and beyond. Aside from a beauty of a vine almost all year, you get flowers and fruit.

We get as much as a pint a day each spring from one plant. They also spread underground and cover more space each year as desired. easy to control and worth the trouble for sure. This is a thornless variety for zone 8.

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The beautiful ground cover below is Lemon Balm. It is not only evergreen, it is super low water, medicinal, edible and a mosquito repellant.

 Lemon Balm and other herbs aren’t the only perennials in the landscape. There are other edible, evergreens that are more drought tolerant than you’d think. The bed below is  medicinal and edible. You’re looking at the bottom of a Santa Rosa Plum tree, kale, Swiss chard and lettuce that has gone to seed and a stem from my “Wonderful” Pomegranate. Plant these types of foods in morning sun and enjoy them most of the year. Companion planting with assorted mint ground covers and thyme, also keeps their form beautifully all year while they keep biting pests at bay from you and your food.

One of my favorite natural fragrances is Citronella. Nothing like its pungent bottled version, it is very citrus and floral at the same time and a beautiful plant with lavender flowers to boot. A member of the geranium family, it can be sensitive to cold here in Central and Northern parts, but well worth the protection or added care.

Not only are herbs and edibles delicious and nutritious, but they are mosquito repelling in many cases. Most herbaceous plants can be rubbed on the skin, or just broken, burned or crushed to omit the scent; place fresh herbs in a pocket,  purse, bra or socks for added protection from mosquitoes. Skip the perfume, the only ones enjoying that is the mosquitoes anyway.

Above is variegated thyme which there are literally dozens of that do well in central Texas; below is rosemary and I love both the trailing and upright. Most herbs like the Rosemary will prefer full sun, but there are many that will tolerate or do well in part sun too.

The oregano above is one of many funky, aromatic varieties you can grow all over the country and the Mexican Oregano (below) doubles as a sun to part shade perennial and an edible as many Texas perennials do.

Did you know Cilantro (above) did this? Butterflies love them at this stage and when they go to seed you get what birds don’t eat, which is a lot. You’d be pleasantly surprised by how much seed you can collect each year to replant at will in the future. That’s a huge savings if you love to cook with fresh herbs like I do.

Below is one of my many herb gardens I’ve had through the years. I like it to look like a natural space and each plant serves as protection for the others in the heat of the day. There is also plenty to share with birds, bees and visiting caterpillars and larvae.

I think it’s really important to avoid the trappings of a traditional herb or veggie bed. Plants are meant to mingle as long as they each have their own space or play well with one another. Just like people!

Not only are some of these flowers stunning like the Pineapple Guava above or the fresh cut Thai Basil below; but they are bee, bird and butterfly food which is good for everyone.

Onions (above), a member of the Allium family, and parsley (below) create spectacular flower displays when they’re allowed to go to bloom: this is also a great way to collect seeds for next season, or just let them spread at will like I do and edit as needed.

Here you see an herb garden that doubles as mosquito repellant. Every plant in this bed could be used to grab a leave and go. Edible herbs will also throw off your breath to a mosquito or improve it at the very least 😉

These two spaces are primarily edible or medicinal. With so many evergreen options there’s no reason to leave them out of the xeriscape landscape in most cases.

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could you tell here that you are looking at one of my two peach trees, 4) tomatoes, 5) peppers, 2) grapes, spearmint, chocolate peppermint and grapefruit mint as ground cover around the firepit, sweet and Thai basils, onions, Aloe Vera, Lemon Grass, yarrow and edible flowers. All together, this small backyard has a Wonderful Pomegranate tree, a Kieffer Pear, 2 peaches, June Gold and Sam Houston, a Santa Rosa Plum, an Apple Tree in the front yard, 2) olives, one in front and one in back, 4) Pineapple Guava, blackberries, Raspberries, grapes, herbs galore, peppers, tomatoes. asparagus, kale, swiss chard, lettuce, onions, garlic, medicinal plants and edible flowers.

This new season brings new opportunity. The next time you expand your perennial beds, make a little room for your food. You will know what is on it, you know where it came from, you provide food for bees and birds and it will get you in your garden more.

Happy Edible Gardening!

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape & Design

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The Guaranteed Gardener!

Now that I have your attention, I’m about to blow your mind with a some great tips for saving money and succeeding in your landscape. Guarantee is a word some landscape companies throw around to incentivize you to feel comforted by the fact that no matter what happens to your new plants, they’re going to swoop in like Batman in the night and replace them at your will.

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Lets clear some things up, you’re paying for that guarantee. I know that salesperson really liked you, but it’s built into their cost. If you lose some plants, they have no consequence because they’ve already charged you money to cover a lot more than that.

Secondly, see how fast a company runs back to fill in a couple of plants when they are spread thin during the busy season, I assure you from many years of Consults that you’re lucky to get a response from some companies when something goes right, let alone when something’s wrong after a sale. This practice also means they make a larger profit off of you if you take good care of your plants, guaranteed.

With so many plants to choose from, how do you know what the right choices are? You ask for the plant list that will be installed on your property and you do your home work on them, OR, you hire an educated designer and follow that list with minor additions for best results.

A Xerophytic plant profile that can stand out Texas heat is imperative is a successful garden and they need to be properly spaced as well. Each plant should be able to grow without touching one another. You have to know a plant to know how big it gets and you’d be surprised by how many up-sells I see in the way of over-planted beds. Overcrowding (overcharging) is a killer that can take years to happen. Guaranteed.

“I guarantee” that I will answer your questions and assist you in caring for the plants that I layout for you. Email or text to your hearts desire during your first year and before you know it…you’re a Gardener! You’ll actually know what to do yourself. Now, maybe you don’t want to,…or care if you ever touch a plant (you’re missing out by the way), you will at the very least be an educated consumer who can hire talent to care for your space. No one can comfort you by swapping out a plant that could die again because there may be a deeper issue. Previous chemical use can cause plants to suffer, broken pipes, poor drainage, user error, improper watering and pets are all factors. If I know immediately that a plant is suffering, most times I can tell you how to correct it. If you don’t care because you’ll get a free one, you got nothing.

You’re also limited yourself to a smaller plant pallet with a guarantee because the installer needs to know they can get that replacement readily and convenient to them. Once you familiarize yourself with a successful native and adapted plant pallet through a consultation or design, (or by taking the time to familiarize yourself through the many free resources), you can use that same plant profile (as long as the light conditions are the same) throughout your space. Many plants will work in sun and shade. This guarantees (I’m up to 3 now) gardening success. Proper plants, placed in the correct light, properly spaced is key for the installation and design success, before and after the plants are installed the owner’s investment really begins. Of course there is a margin of error, do you return all the grapes or the mealy watermelon to the store if it doesn’t taste good? Probably not. If you have a good handle on how to properly care for your new plants now and in the future, that is about as good a guarantee as you’ll ever get.

Nature has variables, your loss should be no greater than 1 to 3 % if you follow my instruction given verbally and in writing, as well as my organic protocol. Insist that your Designer or Landscape Consultant educate you on proper care then educate yourself as well. Train your yard keeper the proper, trimming and organic protocol and insist on it when hiring.

Your designer, or installer should also want to hear your feedback and assist you in your process for three great reasons.

1) It gives Landscape Designer/Installer valuable feedback on how to improve their business by recognizing common mistakes.

2) When a clients yard looks great, that’s a great referral for a future customer.

3) It’s the right thing to do.

So, the bottom line is to use that money you saved on the guarantee to buy some nice wine, or a real pretty IPA, then enjoy a garden tour through your space every few days. You’re guaranteed to learn something, you’ll catch problems early and it might just be the therapy you needed and already paid for.

Happy Gardening,

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape and Design

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Control Freak Much?

One of the best ways to squelch the life out of a good design is to work with a client who can’t give up control to the process. You need to be open to suggestion, education, what is realistic and what isn’t. While there are many certain’s in landscape and gardening; More times in life, work and landscaping, you have to fly by the seat of your pants.

No matter how qualified a gardener/landscaper, sometimes that great plan for an elaborate space dies with your budget, that super spot for your new tree turns out to be a rock shelf, or you hit an irrigation head. In other words, Sh** happens… Much like life, you cannot control every little aspect of your garden design or installation. Things are going to affect your installation because we can’t see beneath the ground, you’ll only have so much to spend and yellow doesn’t grow in shade. Many times when a problem presents itself however, there is an equally clever solution if you are open minded. When you micro manage your landscape crew or design process, you are limiting yourself to your own ideas, and let’s face it…if they were so great, you probably wouldn’t have called me 😉

Design with measurements-lisa-LaPaso-color

A design or installation is a collaboration, it’s about the designer or contractor bringing your vision to life; but you have to be confident that the professional can complete the concept, then trust them to do just that. A big part of the success of any landscape design or installation is a management of expectations on both parties. It is important to fully articulate your needs in as few words as possible. For example, as the client, “I like pink, I hate orange, I don’t want to see my neighbors when I’m in my hot tub, and I need shade for my kids”. The Designer might say, “Here is what you will get, here is how much it will cost and this is about how long it will take”,… for example. If there are particular plants you love or a style of gardening you are attracted to, have photos to share for samples. This way you can be sure the designer/ contractor has your vision and you’re not surprised by the finished product.

A good place to be very involved is in the bid, ask for details, then ask questions. Always ask for rock samples for river beds and patios. Never choose materials from a photo, much like cloth and painting material, stone comes in many shades depending on the mining. Make sure you know what plants are going in the ground. Never let any random plant go into your space without understanding its nature and water needs.

If you are the type of person who prefers typical business hours and a person who always answers the phone, use a big company. People like me who hustle every day don’t have time to take calls all day. Although, you should get a call back within a day or so at least. We are giving all of our attention to the clients we are working with just as you would prefer for yourself later. Conversation by email is one of the surest ways to communicate with continuity and it doesn’t hurt to have it in writing.

If you love cactus, you wouldn’t want to hire me. You need to find someone who specializes in that. So don’t expect landscape miracles when you defer to your lawnmower guy for plants and they all die because they didn’t belong here. Hire a professional Landscape Coach or Landscape Consultant to educate you on the plants in your local area, or visit your local nursery with your smart phone and start googling your hardiness zone for reference. If the plant you’re looking at isn’t for your zone, move on. If these are the types of plants your contractor is recommending…move on. For example, these (above and below) are a few of the plants, shrubs or trees we can enjoy in our Central Texas Xeriscape garden beds. Never ask for, or allow anyone to install plants or trees that aren’t native to here or acclimated already, if I have a client who doesn’t get that, I move on.

Clients don’t realize it, but in my industry there is such a thing as a PITA tax. That’s a “Pain In The A$$” penalty passed on to the client. You will be charged extra when you let your contractor know up front that you’re going to be difficult to work with. Have a cohesive concept for them to bid on, or be completely open to their ideas. Working with someone who has no idea, but doesn’t like any of yours is a sure sign to step away for both sides. Don’t force a relationship with a landscaper or designer. You should be finishing each others sentences if you’re on the same page, or at least be excited by their ideas. If a trusted professional tells you your idea is bad, listen. There is often a cheaper or more practical solution and/or your rate of return will not be worth it. In other words, your contractor could charge you for the difficulty/ impracticality, not just the work. Desperation is another trigger for a landscaper. The job takes as long as it does and rushing it won’t help, but it could cost you more. Ask for the “real time” for completion, expect them to show up every day or tell you why. Then add on extra time for weather, material issues and traffic delays. Don’t start off a good relationship on the wrong foot by mismanaging your own expectations.

These were collaborations of love with people who enjoyed the process. You not only get what you pay for, but you get what you envisioned and so much more. Hire great people for fair pay then let them get to work!

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape and Design

” Saving The Planet One Yard at a Time”