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”

Check me out of YouTube!

Yes, We Have No Banana’s!

You’re not in Kansas anymore baby-doll, this terrain isn’t for the weak or the weary. It’s hot as hell, the only rain we get is all on the same day and the ground parts that aren’t rock are clay and/or builders dirt (aka, Red Death. There is a reason we don’t have basements here, the dirt is only an inch deep.

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As bad as the dirt is already, there’s nothing worse for Central Texas gardeners from an ecological or labor intensive standpoint, than to introduce plants that just don’t belong here. YES, we have no banana’s! This is not the tropics. I’m glad “your neighbor has them”, but they do not belong here, they spread voraciously in all the wrong ways, freeze to the ground in winter and rarely fruit. And, you planted them why?

With all the amazing native and adapted, non-invasive plant, shrub and tree choices, it is frankly negligent to introduce plants that do not belong in our ECO system. (look up Ligustrum, Chinese Tallow, Kudzu, Nandina Domestica or Heavenly Bamboo) So aside from choosing the local Flora, here are some really great tips for a successful Central Texas Garden, (zone 8) or whatever planting zone you’re in,

  1. Install local plants, and buy locally from nurseries who make the effort to have them on supply and only use contractors/designers who know native or adapted, water wise plants. Why not use the plants that thrive in your area, they’ve obviously already approved of your soil conditions.
  2. Mulch your beds deeply each fall and top dress them each spring after you compost, or buy mixed  material and maintain a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Do not compost in the fall as we’re not encouraging growth. It’s sleepy time 😉
  3. Plant in mass for stability and impact. The Texas sun is hot and having a plant every 5 feet keeps them on a hot island, alone. Mass planting helps with soil erosion and loss of nitrogen and moisture.
  4. DO NOT OVER PLANT, less is more…”which is it lady?” Both, plant in mass but don’t over do it. Properly space your plants such that there is room to walk between most of them but not enough room to add a bench, and not so close they become a blob.
  5. It is what it is. You’re not in Cali, or Louisiana, or New Hampshire, or my original hood, “Chicago”; it is Texas, two blocks from the sun and harder than the Rock of Gibraltar. Amend your soil by adding quality compost, raised bed soils or dark, rich top soil as often as you can afford it until you see a difference in the texture of your working soil. This can take years so be patient and only bite off a little at a time so beds are manageable.
  6. Be Organic in every way. This isn’t a fad, it is thousands of years old and the same techniques are used today. They are cheaper, safer and more effective over all and you’re not killing your soil or yourself while you do it. Now, that’s not to say you can drink them, just that you won’t burn your dogs paws or babies feet when they walk in liquid seaweed.
  7. Choose plants that excite you and entice you into the garden!!! Here are a few off the top of my head…

 

  oh yeah, and these…

 

 

If you’re not excited about the Texas flora now, you’ll probably want to move 😉

In the mean time, you can contact me at lisalapaso@gmail.com for a landscape consultation or design and see why I think Texas native and adapted, low water, low maintenance plants are” what’s up” in a modern Hill Country landscape.  You can find inspiration everywhere if you just look!

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape and Design

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

Creating a Sun Chart for Your Landscape

Texas sun, is not like other sun. Yes, I know it is the same one…but I have traveled all over the country and lived here for 35 years and I’m telling you, Texas has a special kind of sun conditions for people and plants. Much like the desert heat, we get intensely long days with hot temperatures, but in Austin specifically, we don’t cool at night and our poor plants are subjected to extremes from drought, to gully washers, to windy to stiflingly humid. If this isn’t bad enough we’re planting them in rocks, clay or both. Seeing as we’re asking so much of our plants and trees already, the least we could do is to plant them in the correct light.

One of the most common mistakes aside from placing plants too close to one another, or choosing plants that are too big for the space when mature, is choosing the wrong plants for the light conditions you have. A full sun plant in a deep shade yard is pretty much a swing and a miss no matter how you look at it. You will have a leaning plant reaching for sun, that is vulnerable to pests and may never bloom.

The easiest way to avoid this costly mistake is to create a sun chart for your front, sides and back yard in one of two simple ways. The first is to take photos every two hours or so on a day when you are home. So for example, you would take a 8:00, 10:00, 12:00, 2:00 and so on until the sun goes down. You would catch the light in each space you are desirous of creating new beds in, then watch for the light conditions to change one way or the other. The other option is to use a drawing of your space and/or the beds you are planning and create a chart as I show below to demonstrate the hours of full sun to part shade to full shade. Below, the sun-dial from this property survey shows that the landscape in the front beds will have a lot of shade in the day and the left side of the bed will have full afternoon sun. This is a complicated plant profile and it would be difficult to plan without knowing the hours of direct sunlight. These areas will have to have plants that do well in sun to shade. The diagram below would allow you to “plug in” plants in your design where they are most suitable for each space.

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If you only have a mostly shady spot that just happens to get full sun in a section of your yard from 2:00 -5:00 like the lower left corner of this drawing (above) then that tells you, you cannot use a full shade plant because that sucker is gonna cook like an egg on a sidewalk in the blazing, late day, Texas heat. Shade plants are delicate and they are not going to survive an afternoon heat blast. However, there are plants that will take a beating in those conditions and it may require some homework to know who they are. Off the top of my head a few plants that will tolerate such punishment are Rock Rose Pavonia, Turks Cap and Mexican Honey Suckle. After you create your sun chart you can begin to find the right plants by Googling “sun plants for Central Texas”, or call a landscape professional like me for a landscape consultation or design ;).  In the mean time, here are some plants that tolerate, or thrive in shade to sun in Central Texas.

So before you begin your next landscape project, beds or tree planting, consider the light hours you have each day. A full sun plant needs at least 6 hours of full sun to bloom prolifically. Shade plants and some part sun plants, cannot take hot afternoon sun at all so buy native and adapted plants for your hardiness zones (in Austin we are zone 8) so you know that the “full sun” tag really means, “Texas Sun”.

So, as you can see in the photos above, each yard has very unique light conditions. Varying from full sun, to full shade and everything in between. A landscape design has to have continuity with plants, color and texture so it makes sense throughout the space. By taking photos of your yard at various times of the day you can see exactly how many hours of sunlight each bed will get and where. Then layout your plant list/design to suit each space by choosing native and adapted plants for your sunlight hours, plants that have the same water requirements (low and xeriscape), and of course the right size, then be sure there is seasonal color, texture and interest throughout the year.

if you’re in, or around the Austin area and would love to just have someone provide you with a custom plant list or custom designbased on your light and design preferences, give me a call or text at 512-733-7777, or email me at lisalapaso@gmail.com to set up your Landscape Consultation.

TLisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape & Design

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

Cotoneaster, Say it 3 Times Fast!

20180423_161118Cotoneaster, ( pronounced, “ca-tony-aster” ) is one of the most underused, awesome shrubs plants in Central Texas in my opinion.

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I love this funky shrub because it just goes wherever the hell it wants to. And while you can find this jewel from carpet/mounding to upright like this guy, they can be difficult to find so check your local nurseries. They are super for hardiness zones 4 -8, hardy in our freezes, evergreen, flowering, with winter berries and great looks all year, what more do you want?

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Well, if you are an organized type, this may not be the plant for you. Ranging in size from 2 x 3’ (shorter varieties), to 4 to 5’ x 7 to 8’, you can train it to your hearts desire, (doesn’t like to be a box) or just let it do its thang. There really seems to be no rhyme or reason why the stems go where they go and to me, that’s what makes it so awesome in the landscape.

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I have trained them up trellis and I have let them blob out into sidewalks. One of the most attractive qualities of this plant is its “I’ll just go this way” personality.

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The Cotoneaster is great evergreen texture and interest when you’re trying to hide utilities and don’t want to trim. Below,  I have trimmed along the sidewalk a few times in the last 2.5 years and that was mostly to make it grow taller at first, it seems to have taken the hint and grows upright mostly now.

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This cool dude, is part shade to sun and perfect for Xeriscape gardens, fast growing, and makes a great evergreen backdrop for perennial color.

if you’re looking for other great plants in the Central Texas or surrounding area, call or text me for a Design/Landscape Consultation at 512-733-7777, or email me at lisalapaso@gmail.com!

Summertime, Is Your Landscape Easy?

In the legendary words of Ms. Ella Fitzgerald, summer should be for chillin. This time of year in Central Texas it is hot as a frying pan. I don’t know about you, but I am not a huge fan. Therefor, I’m not going out there much to garden and do yard work. I think there are general rules about the garden for me. I want to work in it when it’s cooler, not too hot, not too cold, just right. Call me a garden princess (or silver/auburn  locks;) if you will, but it is possible for the most part with a few basic instructions .

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As you can see from above, I like lots of color and texture. This may not be your bag. Keeping large beds for you to grow weeds in is not a good use of your time. Therefore, you need to keep them full of plants or they will be filled by Mother Nature with weeds. You’re better off leaving grass if you don’t plan on weeding your beds occasionally as needed. As needed, for someone in the middle of a subdivision, will not be the same as someone who lives adjacent to a Greenbelt, so keep them in mind when planning. I usually spend about 10 or 15 minutes each week to hand pull the weeds and that seems to work well for me.

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The best defense against weeds in beds (aside from plant coverage) is deep mulch. I’m talking 4-6 inches of natural shredded mulch. Avoid colors like red and black. The best defense against weeds in your lawn is to mow, mow, mow! Allowing weeds to go to seed (above) and establish over the winter months if going to be a gift that keep on giving. Mow every 7 to 10 days max for weed control.

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Above, less is more when your grass is doing well. I say, If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Shade has a super challenging plant profile so if you don’t have to water the grass a lot, leave the grass, it’s less maintenance. Below, the sun was so brutal, the compromise of drought resistant plants and herbs along with an intentional spot of grass makes more sense. it becomes a work of art and a place you look forward to maintaining.

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If you have a lot of sun or shade hours, make sure you choose the right plants for the light conditions. A plant that is never happy will always be maintenance. It is also really important to choose the correct plants and trees that are native or adapted to your environment. If a plant needs too much work, get rid of it. If you have oversized shrubs you have to constantly trim, get rid of them or turn them into trees or a work of art.

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Composting your lawn and beds will also make your maintenance a lot less in the summer. Compost only works if you’re organic, so bone up on some organic fertilizers and general care and you will reap the rewards for generations to come. Chemical fertilizers and weed control kill your soil and the beneficial fungi that connects your plants for the greater good (Google Mycorrhizal Fungi). Creating a symbiotic relationship  throughout your entire property allows each plant to benefit from one another. That can only happen with an organic protocol and here are some of my faves.

Compost your beds each spring 1 to 2 inches and compost your entire lawn and trees 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Use the compost to fill in ruts and bald spots as well.

If you have big mama shrubs that cannot be “reclaimed”, it may be a good idea to start over. When I’m designing I will always salvage as much of the existing landscape as I possibly can. Try to find the names of the oversized shrubs you have, and see if you can “rebuild them”.

Below, these shrubs are eating up the house and have been too poorly trimmed for any structural “comeback”, so I removed most of them and started over…

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Below, Now, the house is the star of this show and when these plants mature, they will proportionate in size to the scale of the home without unnecessary maintenance.

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Many times you may just need to do some weeding out and choose the strongest and most interesting plants that have the most potential, then  you may need to change the way you maintain them. For example, some big shrubs can be turned into trees and no longer require as much maintenance.

Obviously, the topiary on the left is the most maintenance and the one on the right is the least. Choose wisely.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make is to install river rock in place of lawn to reduce maintained. RIVER ROCK IS NO WATER, NOT, NO MAINTENANCE, I recommend a 4mil painters plastic beneath rock-work for weed control as long as it’s not on a slope. Landcape fabric burns off after about 2 summers in rock. Either way, prepare to pull weeds. The bottom right is a neighbor who thought he could place rock and poison it with Round Up every six months. No Bueno. Weeding each week takes a few minutes, waiting months causes this.

Finally, conserving water is awesome, but don’t be so stingy you lose your lawn and shrubs. Erosion and weeds will become an issue and you’re better off watering every 10 days deeply than not at all. Beds along your foundation are beneficial because the moisture keeps the foundation from expansion in the heat.

Moral to the story is to keep it manageable by weeding once a week for 10 minutes, or come home from Austin traffic and kick the crap out of some weed beds before you go in the house. Keep the lawn if you don’t want to pull weeds, mow often and be organic about it. If you want to reduce your lawn (and I hope you do), you’ll reduce your water by using evergreen, low water, low maintenance plants that belong here. Then water enough to keep it alive so you don’t have to replace it. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, add small beds at a time and make sure you can care for them. Once you have success, add more, and so on. Or don’t…

It’s really that simple…

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape and Design

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

Summertime is for Landscape Design!

So, spring is over and you’ve allowed another season to go by without making the progress you had hoped for? Or maybe you were overzealous and made some “interesting” choices you are now unsure of and its too hot to do much about it.  Whatever your trepidation or reason for delay, you are in luck, because summertime is the best time for a design.

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Summer is the best time because your yard is in full bloom, the trees have their leaves and you can really see what you have to work with and what needs to be removed. Once you discern what is working and what is not, you can study the correct plants and planting techniques and design for yourself on the myriad of software tools and such, or you can hire a qualified landscape designer, consultant like myself, to begin your desired transformation.

 

 

 

Summer is the best time to determine your true light at the hottest part of the day, or that you have way more shade than you realized now that your trees have grown in. Grass removal and/or bed preparation, construction, patios, privacy issues and drainage are great summer projects as well. A detailed design that includes dimensions and plant quantities can be  plan to follow over years as your budget allows or to pass over to contractors for an accurate and comparable bid.

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An “average” design in and around Austin, TX ranges from $650-$1500ish and can set you in the right direction real quick. A design includes a personalized consultation that allows me to get into your head and really understand your needs and desires while. After we speak (usually 30 minutes or so), I will collect your property survey (for accurate measurements), take photos and ask you for a sun chart to better understand your light requirements in various places throughout the yard. This helps me coordinate the plant palette with the proper plants for your conditions, while creating continuity in colors and textures throughout the landscape.

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A typical design takes me a 3 to 4 weeks after I receive your light schedule and any requested measurements or detail. this is a timely process because I think and rethink, then design and re-design in my mind’s eye or whatever, until I finally sit down to the drawing board and make magic happen. The design includes a list of plants to be used and a layout provides a final result of plants at their maturity. The plants are laid in a grid system so that you can do the installation yourself, hire me to do your installation or hire anyone else for that matter. It also allows you to take several years to complete the project with a grand overview.

 

 

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Finding the right designer is important because you need to be on the same page. If you choose one like me who specializes in native and adapted plants for your area, you can be sure they will be low water, low maintenance for life in Central Texas. With our growing population in Austin and the surrounding area, we need to use only low water, low maintenance plants.  Hardscapes such as stonework and metal are drawn to concept only, and approximate measurements are included. if you have a large concrete project, you may require a landscape architect or civil engineer depending on your topography, so take your time and do your homework. Changing the grade or slope of your property with poorly installed landscapes, patios or pools can be costly to you and neighbors.

 

 

Once you have chosen your plants and created the design, you may also need some instruction on how to care for your landscape through the seasons. I am devoted to the success of your landscape and hope that all my clients will be successful. For me, a client is for life. you should be able to ask follow-up questions for years to come so that you will be inspired to help those around you and develop a love of gardening. At the very least you will have a sense of pride and ownership that goes along with the understanding of the landscape you have installed. Be sure that whomever you use is a real plant specialist who is familiar with a large breath of plants, shrubs and trees for your area. If they can’t name at least 10 of your neighborhood plants, send them packing. anyone can draw a picture of a landscape, it takes a plants specialist to create a landscape design. Xeriscape means low water, and after 20 years in the Central Texas Landscape, I know it doesn’t have to be cactus.

If you’re in the Austin or surrounding area, I can be reached by phone at (512)733-7777, or by email at lisalapaso@gmail.com. Here is a list of my services.

Lisa LaPaso

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

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

Check me out on YouTube!