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.

b

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…

IMG_1162

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

After the design consultation

20160219_173612-1

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.

IMG_0880

IMG_0883

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!

Look Ma, No Hands!

Remember when you were little and everything you ever did needed to be acknowledged and every question had to be answered even if it was the 17th time? Most of us still like to be acknowledged for our special talents or even our quirks when only a close friend could know it. Plants are the same and while some boast to the world that they are obviously special, some are more subtle about how they get our attention.

This blog was inspired by a client I installed plants for; who upon our final plant walk through asked if I could write down the things that might be unique about some of the plants as she was not familiar which most of them. I said, “you mean like, tricks”? I noticed she lit up a bit when I said that and a great idea was born, so thank you Sheri.

There are FAR too many plants to list by trick, talent, purpose, what have you, but I would like to at least peak your interest as to the special talents your plants may have, While I introduce you to some that may surprise you.

A great example would be the Moon Flower Datura (below) this special plant blooms only in the evening and closes in the dawn. It is incredibly fragrant and attracts hummingbird moths who put on an amazing show at dusk making it an excellent choice for a moonlight garden. I remind anyone who reads my blog that I am aware that this plant can be used as a hallucinogenic. I NEVER advocate the use of any plant that needs to be measured for accuracy. Just like vegetables, if you can’t have it when ever you wish without fear for overdose, injury or death, don’t eat or smoke it as a rule 😉 Thanks to the internet we no longer have to eat our way through trial and error in the landscape as they used to do, now there is endless information at our fingertip.

IMG_20140813_211009

Many common flowers are also edible. Unlike the Moonflower which is toxic, many plants, leaves stems and/or flowers are actually edible.

IMG_3405

Daylily young leaves, flower and pods are edible. Full to part sun, low water assorted colors and sizes.

Rose petals , Turks cap, Yarrow , Aloe Vera, Stone Crop Sedum, and many more plants are edible or have edible parts and a fountain of information can be found at foragingtexas.com. It is a great resource for an edible landscape that isn’t only vegetables and fruit.

Some plants have an interesting texture or scent. Many plants (below) have aromatic qualities that make them deer resistant and mosquito repelling. The rest have interesting texture, feathery plumes that dance in the breeze, produce fruit or berries, or fall color. There are many that remain evergreen all year as well.

Remember that especially showy plants like Pride of Barbados, Esperanza, Mexican Bush Sage, fruit and flowering trees like Crepe Myrtle and Desert Willow traditionally will be deciduous (go to sleep in the winter) to store energy for the coming years show. That being said, there are those such as rosemary, some sages, yucca, Aloe Vera,  Foxtail Fern and some semi-evergreen plants that can fill in quite nicely over the  winter

Above is a pretty sweet, short list of evergreen plants that also do tricks in the summer and fall. Many of them are also considered semi-evergreen which can mean it is safe to certain temps, or goes partially dormant briefly while producing new green.

We have an incredible list of food we can grow here in Central Texas as well; fruit trees such as pears, peaches, plums, kumquats, loquats, persimmon,  or vines such as black berries, raspberries, grapes and so much more.  If you are looking for a great list, check out The Natural Gardener.com , the Lady Bird Wildflower Center or the A&M fruit and Nut guide.

I hope I’ve inspired you to research the edible and flowering flora of Texas to share with your friends and families. You may be pleasantly surprised by even the edible and flowering weeds you’ve been pulling like dandelion and purslane, bluebonnet or winecups. The native and adapted plant pallet in Austin and the surrounding area is a stunning array of colors and textures. If you find yourself challenged with just the right choice or are in need of a landscape consultation or design, I would love to help with that. From plant choices, installation and timing, to lawn and tree maintenance. Certified Organic, education and solutions from a design perspective. Schedule an appointment at 512-733-7777 or email me at lisalapaso@gmail.com.

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape & Design

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

What Plants Do I Choose?!

In a state like Texas with our crazy geography, heat, all the rain or none at all, even the plants themselves are confused, so how could you know where to begin. The truth is, if you are in the Central Texas, Austin or surrounding area, you could call me for a consultation and I could just tell you what to plant. However, if you are looking for some great free advice, I’ve got that too.

Where do you begin? A successful plant begins with the soil. You must amend your soil first and you can attack this from two ways. One is to get a soil test and see what deficiencies there actually are, or go the lazy route like me and compost the hell out of it. I figure, who’s amending the woods? Compost is. Compost is decaying plant and animal matter. You can buy compost in bags and amend with cow, chicken or turkey manure for a great nitrogen and micorhizal fungi booster. Now…that also means NO chemicals ever unless it is your last resort. Use only organic protocols and I promise you will love the results, mind, body and soul.

Most of us will begin with a construction site, or inherited someone else’s who knows what. How could you know what the people before you used in the way of chemicals or what horrible dirt lies beneath that brand new mulch. The good news is, compost can fix all of that. Compost, compost, compost. Every single spring buy compost in bags or bulk and cover your entire property lawn and all with at least half an inch or more in beds if there is room for the depth (remember to keep a minimum of 4 inches of mulch/compost in beds). Rake it into your lawn as a top-dressing and into your beds for food all year.

Next you do a light schedule for your space; catch the hours of sun front, sides and back by taking photos at 10:00, 12:00, 2 and 4. Above you see perfect examples of one side with full sun and the fence has shade, the next is full sun, the next is dappled and the later is part sun and part shade. Below: part sun/ part shade, full sun, shade. There is a plant for all spaces and a solution to every challenge.

Finally, you choose the right plants for the job. Do your homework, the only shortcut here is to hire me or someone like me, so if that’s not an option, do your work. Full sun plants are “full sun” for a minimum of 6+ hours. Part sun typically means 4 or less hours and many can take morning or afternoon but some are only morning sun and those are typically defined as shade/part sun. Shade is dappled light only and only small amount of morning sun with zero full sun exposure in the heat of the day (2-6). Once you know your light requirements, you can make the right plant choices. First however, we have to make a plan…

Choose Native or adapted plants and trees recommend for your hardiness zone. Planting zone in Austin and the surrounding area is 8/a 8/b and now even some zone 9 do very well in a protected area. Choose only low water plants and properly space them for the least maintenance.  If you have a space that doesn’t drain well and stays wet for long period of time, work with the cards you were dealt and choose plants and trees that prefer wetter feet. There is a solution to just about every challenge.

79BFB073-0103-44BD-9D26-0D9E758C3B17

Create a design using online tools or by constructing a grid on a copy of your survey/plat with square foot/ 5, or 10 foot squares that assist you in planning for how many plants will fill in a space. Above is a quick sketch of a space with some basic measurements and a 5 foot grid. I have hard lined the changes we know we want to make but the rest are negotiated as you go depending on cost and priorities. This is a very typical sketch I would make for a client after a landscape consultation. This would not include specific plants in beds this large but it would include a list of plants that work in this light, or as mentioned previously you create your own by researching the internet and my blog.

Choose plants in various sizes and colors as well as evergreen and deciduous. Choose colors and textures from ground cover to as tall as your space allows. Be sure to plan each 5 ft square accordingly. If your shrub or choice is 5 feet wide, each one takes up a square. 3, 2 ft wide plants would spill over a 5 foot space, and so on. Plant in groups and use symmetry to make color composition easier. Opposite colors on the color wheel compliment and “pop” in sun, texture is your friend in shade and dappled light.

So now you have a great place to start. Soil, sun schedule, plants then proper timing and planting. Trees and shrubs are best planted in winter. Smaller perennials and herbs are best to plant in spring. Dig your hole twice as wide and a bit deeper, add a little compost to each hole to mix into the existing soil then plant your root ball with some root activator, water in well each day for a couple of weeks, then graduate to a few times a week, then once a week and so on as needed for the first two years until established. Xeriscape is low water plants by definition so don’t limit yourself to cacti, branch out to color and lush texture if that is your preference and still be water conscious with water wise native and adapted plants for Central Texas.

If you’re in Austin or the surrounding area and would like a personal educational and/or design consultation, call me 512-733-777 or email me at lisalapaso@gmail.com. A one hour landscape consultation in far south Austin or Buda is $100 an hour, $125 an hour Central and $150 for Cedar Park, Georgetown and Hutto. 512-733-7777, or email me at lisalapaso@gmail.com. It’s the best money you will ever spend on your land; for a small fee I will save you thousands.

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape & Design

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

 

FREE PLANTS!

 

After landscape consults through the years I always feel bad when I tell someone that a plant they just bought to add to the landscape could have been taken from the plants they already had in the yard. You may have no idea how many plants you already have that can be cut, re-seed or simply plucked from the existing plant and stuck right in the ground and it will grow! Here is my favorite list.

 

 

Plants like Iris and Daylily can be split every few years by digging them up and gently separated them from one another. You will end up with dozens of new plants this way and it is an economical way to spread the love.

IMG_3664

Succulents of all kinds can be broken off at the stem, or the small leaves can be planted to create a new plant for a friend or for a new place in the garden. Below is a small plant and root system that’s already begun.

8A889BA2-67C6-4CC0-8655-316F04582AF9

Sedum and succulents you may already have or those you can take cuttings from friends can be plucked and replanted. Each leave is actually a seed for a new plant (above). Plant the leaves very shallow in the soil and keep moist but not wet until established.

 

Below, this Aloe Vera has produced dozens of “pups” that call be gently pulled apart like the daylilies and Iris, then replanted as new plants that will grow to a mature size than produce more pups and so on.

IMG_1330

Pencil Cactus is another great plant to just cut and stick in the dirt, you can make as many of these as you wish.

IMG_1388

Angel wing and standard Begonia are excellent plants to break off a piece and create a new plant. Use excellent potting soil with moist, but not wet soil and never leave water in the saucer or the plants newly forming roots will rot. Allow to dry slightly between watering. Root stimulator or growth hormones can also help this process along.

IMG_1338

Paddle Cactus can be cut almost anywhere a potential “node” or bud is attached and planted right into the soil. This was actually a small piece that fell off a clients cactus and I just stuck it in the ground. This is it only a couple of years later. Free! The mint in this shot is also a creeping plant that can be dug up in sections and replanted in other sections, as are the Bluebonnet’s re-seeding.

IMG_1329

Plants like ice plant are also easy to break off a stem and just plant into a pot or bed.

IMG_1327

Then let’s not forget about the other re-seeding plants. Some people may see these as a little extra work, but herbs and flowers that freely re-seed are free plants all day where I come from.

Even potatoes can be recycled…

IMG_1345

These are aloe Vera pups just removed from their mother and planted with sprouting sweet potatoes . Then in no time it goes from here…

 

To here…

92A24678-AA38-447D-B13B-56D6DC625E84

Moon flower seeds are excellent gifts. Each spikey lunar looking seed pod contains potentially dozens of new plants. This little baby below planted itself in just the right place. Moonflower Datura or Jimsonweed is a beautiful, low water plant for Central Texas and provides striking white flowers all summer long.

7F9A5663-272A-4558-B82A-522DC9E84015

 

Allow the seeds of these plants to dry in a cool place or just throw them in a paper bag to dry on their own for planting, as a gift, or safe keeping next year.

Hopefully I’ve inspired you to see what little jewels you may already have or experiment with plants you can add to the landscape like zinnias (below) that can provide seeds for years to come, with plenty to share as well.

184031FC-5AE0-4301-AD55-EF7523C00CE3

if you’re looking for a great list of plants for Central Texas that are low water, low maintenance and easy to use in the garden, call me for a plant or educational consult at 512-733-7777 or email me at lisalapaso@gmail.com.

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape & Design

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

 

From Blandscape to Landscape

If you are tired of your yard and unsure of where to begin with change, you aren’t alone. I provide hundreds of Landscape Consultations in and around Austin each year and here are some great tips I have shared along the way.

Choose a color that makes you happy and run with it. Create accents in the yard with spray painted patio furniture, flower pots and umbrellas. These are cheap ways to add color and interest.

IMG_0731 copy

LaPaso-Blown glass

I found this cool piece at a junk shop for next to nothing and I get as many compliments on it as anything else. Find interesting pieces that speak to you, the old metal bed below is another fun find; these are conversation pieces that will define your space.

Items you may already have like old mirrors, pots you can repurpose by spraying them  all the same color, patio furniture that could use some new cushions or a fresh coat of exterior paint can all be used to redesign on a budget.

31116_401485580979_281371330979_4835112_7232457_n

Whimsy is your ally in the garden but make sure you have a theme of some kind. Too many different elements can have a “tchatchke” feel to it. Don’t do bunnies, and gnomes and cowboy boots and metal and plastic. Pick a lane then have fun in it.

Choose plants with interest for a more impactful statement.

IMG_0107

Pride of Barbados, full sun , 8 x 8 low water, trim back in the spring for new growth.

Planting color, texture or flowing (ornamental grass) in mass is a beautiful way to “spruce up” a boring landscape. Look for native and adapted plants that are low water and low maintenance like these (below). Make a list of plants you find online or from my blog here or Facebook page for our planting zone 8a/b, make a list of the size of the plants as well. It is very important not to over plant or place larger plants in front of smaller ones. Be sure to also select from evergreen perennials as well as deciduous ones for interest all year.

 

A quick sketch can set you in the right direction and on your way to creating your perfect plant pallet. Be sure to leave plenty of room for each plant to grown and semiannual maintenance.

 

Make selections based on your light and space…if you’re on a budget, buy smaller plants and trees to start with then water as needed and fertilize with liquid seaweed.

 

Adding walkways is another great way to add intention to the space. Create a path to a different vantage point with a painted bench, an old garage sale find or a family heirloom.

 

Stones, seating and benches can also add interest, texture and color…with so many great online deals for sun shades, umbrellas and do it yourself pergola there are a myriad of ways to add privacy, shade and an opportunity to create something pretty special on a budget.

 

Finally, and as importantly, work with what you have. We are in Texas like it or not and the flora and fauna respond best to a natural environment. Planting deer resistant, low water, low maintenance landscapes that work for us, not the other way around will give you the most value no matter your budget. Local stones, natural rocks, trees, shrubs and hardscapes will make maintenance easier and cost less over all. Native and adapted plants will require less water and so on.

 

Above, too much lawn, outdated steps and hardscape. After, simple changes make the space more functional and updated.

 

Before, there was no access from front of the house to back and the original stone work was antiquated. Adding a second tier of stone in the bed with the updated stepping-stones make all the difference in this space while adding to the resale value of the home.

 

Above, over sized shrubs were removed and replaced with functional stepping-stones which are local and least expensive, appropriate sized plants no longer block the view to the passing neighbors. Below, a construction site becomes a zen space appreciated from both sides of the property line. Reduced lawn, less water and metal is a cheap way to create a barrier between sod and mulch. Carefully placed rocks and boulders are also clever way to eat up landscape without the cost or maintenance.

 

Below, the lawn is reduced, the rock and mulch bed are appropriate to the size of the space and now this place is an inviting sanctuary instead of wastelands and a chore. *Note, river rock is no water, what it is not is low maintenance. Weeds will eventually find their way into the rock to recommend you lay a single layer of 4 to 6 mil painters plastic beneath the rock, only covering from edge to edge of the entire length, secured with landscape pins. Do not run plastic up the sides of metal or stone creating a swimming pool, leave the edges open and water will run fine. You can plan to pull weeds a few minutes every Saturday or religiously spray the rock with vinegar and soap to keep up, but please don’t lay out rock then poison it because weeds that are mowed regularly are much kinder to the earth and a better use of your time.

 

For more great ideas on the fly with things you may already have, call me for an educational /garden coach or design consultation, at 512-733-7777, or email me at lisalapaso@gmail.com.

You can also find some great inspiration for free right here on my blog, or check out Pinterest and the internet for endless inspiration! Just remember, choose Central Texas native or adapted plants, trees and shrubs only. Amend your soil whenever you add plants (click Amending the soil for more info) expect to water regularly the first two years as needed, then once established enjoy your efforts and savvy budget decisions.

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape and Design

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

 

Moonflowers and the Grumpy Old Lady

At the time I was in my early 20’s and she was in her 70’s. Looking back I am sure I was a real game changer, as we were moving into an apartment that had been previously occupied by mainly elderly, retired people and the whole part of North Austin was becoming built out passed 183 and rent was going up.

moonflower

I decided I was going to make my mark here and grew a little garden outside the building and all over my balcony. I was like the crazy cat lady but with plants instead of cats. She and I saw each other in passing but I mostly knew of her by the complaints she filed about our music, our this, our that. She was grumpy and unreasonable and we decidedly kept our distance. All the other neighbors liked me so it must be her right?

Most afternoons on the weekend my now husband, Cavin and I would sit on our beautiful jungle balcony and play Yahtzee and have coffee while we decided what to do for the evening. I rolled the dice and one went flying from the second floor into the yard behind us. Cavin walked around to the back of the complex and asked for my help in locating it. When I stood up and looked over I was taken aback by this intoxicating scent I had never smelled before. I started to peek into other courtyards for a clue; leaning as far as I could barely holding the rail with my foot, I see into a yard (grumpy lady) and see the cages of long white flowers in the shape of trumpets. At least 6-8 inches long, attached to stems with large brightly colored green leaves that were so unique in the landscape I had to have it! I had to know what it was…I was going in.

I had never really spoken to her before so I thought this was as good a chance as any to ingratiate myself and strike up a conversation. Well I’ll be damned if we didn’t hit it off and become great friends. She wasn’t grumpy at all; I probably was a pain in the ass at that age and she had been living there for 20 years. It was an important life lesson to be sure. Her name was Gladys and her sweet husband Dick (had been a surgeon his whole life); joyfully shared the extraordinary seed pods with me. I saved them for over a year waiting for the right place and time.

IMG_1235

Once I planted them they were prolific and I have had them in my garden now for almost 30 years. I have shared them and this story with anyone who’d listen because gardening is a connection and once we can all benefit from even in the smallest amounts.

 

You will read a lot of things about this plant and its hallucinogenic properties but I do not encourage anyone to try that. Any plant that can get you high with two seeds and kill you with 3 doesn’t sound like a good plant for experimentation.

This is a toxic plant for obvious reasons and should be used with care, though as you see, a trained animal or child is a safe one. It is for full to part sun, an evening bloomer, goes dormant in the winter and can be considered an annual in a hard, several day freeze so be sure to keep seed pods from the previous year just in case. Super low water and little maintenance imparted to the return.

Another great benefit to this plant is that it open when the sun starts to go down and the “Hummingbird or Sphinx” Moth comes to visit at dusk which provides a beautiful show and conversation topic. The flower itself is incredibly fragrant, makes a great “Moonlight Garden” plant and after every bloom comes a new gift in the form of a seed pod you can share and continue spreading the love.

if you would like to learn more about spectacular Xeriscape, low maintenance plants for Central Texas, call me for a Consultation or Design at 512-733-7777.

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape & Design

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

 

 

 

8 Reasons to Love Your “Full Sun” Yard

I know many people may think that just because you and your lawn really hate the Central Texas heat and blazing sun that plants would struggle too. After 20 years in the industry I still love designing full sun spaces because the possibilities never end.

1) Full sun landscape beds are the easiest when it comes to plant selection. There is an incredible collection of full sun plants to choose from in an incredible array of colors and textures. Replacing your burned out lawn with xeriscape beds allow you to conserve water by using native and adapted full sun plants. Beds near your foundation also help protect your foundation from cracking in our extremes here in Texas. Who would have thought there would be so many xeriscape plants to choose from?

This should have been 1 though 10 just for the plants you get to choose from, but wait… there’s more!

2) you can grow food! Tomatoes, peppers, herbs, fruit trees, grapes, raspberries, blackberries and so much more grow beautifully in the sun and allowing space for a veggie bed can be a great way of using a full sun space to your advantage.

3) Specimen trees. Specimen trees are really any type of fancy tree that does “tricks” as it were throughout the year or at a particular growing season. They are planted singularly or in mass for affect. The best selection are sun to part sun trees and below are just a few.

4) Opportunities for shade where “you” want to sit. If you buy a home with trees on one side and sun on the other, your shade spot has already been designated for you. If you have a sun yard, you can choose your own trees. There are many great shade trees including fruit that can be found on the Texas A&M website.

DFC977CD-32B0-42DF-A54C-D59FD8F7DB89

Be careful not to overplant your shade trees or you will have a shade garden in about 10 years and you will be replacing your landscape as well.

5) Less fungal issues than those with shade: fungus is caused by moisture and that is hard to trap in the sun.

6) Less mosquito problems and more mosquito repelling plant choices. Plants like citronella, garlic, chives, onions, basil, thyme, lemon grass, lemon balm, mint, Oregano and rosemary , or really any plant that has a pungent smell will throw off your scent and derail those awful mosquitoes.

7) Vitamin D! It is a fact that most people do not get enough sunshine or vitamin D since many work in an office building spend time running errands from buildings to a car. A sunny spot in the yard might be just what you need to re-energize.

E3E6FDFC-BFE0-4099-9A94-117A3AD4DB6D

This is my husband and our youngest son (middle) with high functioning Autism. Both of our boys are Autistic and we have continued to shared our story about how gardening has been a great therapy for all of us. Always wear protection; sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, gloves and good shoes make for a better gardening experience over all.

8) Pergola and sun shades! What better way to add color, charm or elegance than with a pergola, umbrella or sun shade? All of these are excellent options for the full sun garden to accentuate or designate the seating area/s.

So stop cursing your hot sun yard and embrace the many opportunities that are available to you on your “sunny side of the street”.

if you are looking for some more motivation and you are in Austin or the surrounding area, call me for a landscape consultation  @ 512-733-7777 or email me at lisalapaso@gmail.com.

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape and Design

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

How Do I Begin a New Landscape?

The first thing you want to do is decide how you plan to use your land and be sure to create as many living and seating places throughout the space as possible. You can hire a designer, consultant or even go online for inspiration to design and create your own space to enjoy. Whether it is a lot of green you prefer or a riot of color like mine, there is a solution to every problem and a plant for almost every job.IMG_0040

 If you are one of thousands of newbies in Central Texas or Austin and surrounding area, or if you have lived here forever, you are probably a little horrified by the gardening conditions. I am originally from up north and moved here as a teen and I was horrified because all I saw was Live Oaks, cactus and hedge rows. Elaborate landscapes weren’t really a thing here in the late 80’s like I’d grown up with so I figured I’d just find all the pretty flowers here and take note of them. Before you knew it, it was my business and 20+ years later I am still in LOVE with native and adapted Central Texas plants. But the dirt here sucks!

104DE014-6B4A-4466-9D0A-8018DE1E5695

I want to share our latest garden pics with you because this is some of the worst dirt I have seen next to a yard full of rock (which we also have). My last yard was limestone and hard black clay; the dirt here is back fill from the huge retainer pond behind us which was under water at one point in recent history (the last 100 years) so it holds water like clay and it’s topped off with “red death” aka, sandy loam. We knew we needed to amend the soil but first we needed to define the space.

To begin with, we needed to add a place/s to gather and our favorite spot was taking in the view of the water and migratory birds, so we built a patio high and wide and this is where we spent the bulk of our budget. We hired local labor for hauling and did work ourselves. We also installed all the beds ourselves.

 

Unfortunately, this added to the complete devastation of the soil and remaining sod as a patio and pond addition require tons of stone, concrete and water. The moving of building and landscape materials completely compacted the entire yard and the dirt was horrible to begin with. This is about as down to basics as you get. We had a dead compacted lawn, newly planted native baby trees and bushes in a terribly unusual rainy season, poor soil and a lots of beds to fill.

IMG_0465

This photo was taken in early 2016

The first thing we did was to bring in over 200, 40 lb bags of organic top soil and compost. We used bags instead of bulk to avoid more wheelbarrow damage. By walking we could take a new path each time and spread the compost over the entire property. Compost, compost, compost! It is honestly the most important thing you can do in a new space where you want to chelate any potential chemical damage and start the mycorrhizal process to amend the soil you do have. Many clients ask if they should remove their poor soil, but unless you know there is a chemical issue I don’t believe that is a good practice. Your plants are going to reach that crappy soil eventually so why not  give it a boost?

1A76F556-CA11-4918-8E69-5D50C563AFA8

The first point of designing this space was to be careful not to obstruct the view for us or our neighbors. However…as nice as neighbors can be, we want to hide them. This requires careful thought and planning and the right kind of shrubs and trees. We need them fast, we need them to be low water, low maintenance, preferably give food or dramatic color and accentuate the positive attributes of the space.

088012E3-6ED4-4034-8C63-E46E2CE7EC96

On this side of the yard I want to hide the neighbor from our view so I planted columnar trees and  plants that will grow tall but not wide and flanked each corner with a short wide tree.

On the other side, I layered trees to create an entire canopy that will block these houses in about 3 – 5 years. It will block out line of sight not not impede on our neighbors next door who also sees the water.

42D5C62D-6A75-464D-B749-B96C362DA86E

Our side yard is function and feature in that it needs to serve as a space to chill in the shade as well as a garden entrance, and storage space for compost and tools.

DC0435D0-14DD-468D-9545-8C59C6CDC824

I’ve incorporated my tools and compost bins right into the garden by using my unsightly A/C as a buffer between work and garden space.

Below you can see that the garden space is not affected by the work station in a negative way as long as it is organized and intentional. This would not work in a formal space or landscape, but I like mine funky so it works just fine.

62948861-C1C7-4C00-930E-18DE98A223AF

It is also obvious to see that the lawn is still really sad. It was trampled by months of wheelbarrows filled with tons of compost, top soil, stone, concrete and man hours of walking back and forth during construction. This spring it suffered from a heinous case of Poa weed and nearly wiped it out completely, but after an organic protocol of plucking, aeration and composting we are confident the Bermuda will return by next year with lots of TLC and Medina hasta grow for lawns. I would have preferred Zoysia sod, but this is what we have (builder) so we’re making the best of it considering where we started (below)

IMG_0948

Here is what we started with in late February of 2016. Shrubs and very small trees were in place and all were unhappy about it. Too much rain, not enough sun and lots of construction site problems.

Here (below) is a view from the opposite end of this space which is where you enter the back yard through the gate. The right side will stay low and I am using the beautiful brick wall to serve as a back drop to our living area. I plan to train the Pineapple Guava shrubs to the left into small trees that will hide the neighbor adjacent. This space serves as a path from the front to the back as well as a shady spot from the afternoon sun.

IMG_0929

The two trees below define the space between the flower garden and the edible garden where food will be rotated each year and each season. Seating areas are placed everywhere so people will migrate and sit at different vantage points in the garden.

E3AD064A-069C-4641-A6A4-F29C73ABBB8B

Here, I am working on recreating the tree line outside of our fence, inside our fence. I want the water and woods on the far end to feel as though they are en extension of our landscape.

187459B7-DD4F-4B7D-A131-A418FEDB1177

We have hidden our rain barrels in plain sight here on the patio where they are readily accessible. We use them to fill the pond and for food.

789DC2F1-FF7D-4D85-A3BE-F247ED96C0BC

So far, so good for a garden that is only a little over one year old and at a major soil disadvantage. I have fertilized every two to three weeks with liquid seaweed and made sure I chose the right plant for the right spot.

D0B0F008-E328-4D9D-BCEB-FC71BA6F37B8

Meandering paths are essential to a good design. You are paying for the land, why aren’t you using it? Create opportunities for you and your guests to wander.

5F1C0CAB-5297-4DAB-9BFC-45A15C98CC90

Create movement with sculptures grasses or water features. Invite movement with paths and seating.

3FE1A218-E68D-45CF-A0BA-5C1783977D17

This view of plants is at least 90% edible…

9690F234-E68A-4B07-8219-A64BBC2AF092

Or has edible or medicinal parts.

Obviously, the pond plants and Crepe Myrtle would be exceptions. The food grown here Loves the heat, is low water and little maintenance as possible. I got heat stroke 10 years ago and can’t do it anymore. My last garden was my experiment on what plants really need you and those who do not. I chose “do not” as much as possible.

I have also used the same amendments, native and adapted plants and trees in the front beds and here is a sample of that so far. All of these beds are heavily composted with organic compost in the spring then mulched in the fall with shredded hardwood mulch.

IMG_0888

This space was designed to be very linear and elegant. It will be visually appealing from both neighboring sides as well so they aren’t looking at the “back” of my landscape. This garden is one year old and will be mature In another year or so. I have planted over 80% of my front and back yard and kept the remaining required HOA lawn. All this food and all of theses flowers will take far less water to be successful that the sorry sod ever would have been. Thankfully the sod in front did not get Poa annual grass weed but it is sparse and weed prone as a result of the compaction and poor soil quality. We have composted heavily the last two springs, we pull weeds by hand and applying corn gluten each spring and fall for weed control.

A2824DBE-8310-4878-836E-A8F9E44183EE

Above is the flip side of the front in its infancy and I cannot wait to share next summer so you can see how quickly a landscape can evolve from 1 to 5 gallon plants, and no larger than 15 gallon trees in a very short time with a completely organic protocol and lots of compost!

E3E6FDFC-BFE0-4099-9A94-117A3AD4DB6D

A little hard work and the right plants go a long way…

A7DCF896-1833-42C7-8573-07AFCD6BF058

After all of our hard work it is time to sit and enjoy the view… Thank you for taking a tour of what we have created so far. I will share each year as I have in my past gardens and feature my favorite plants and trees to share with you. I hope I’ve given you some inspiration in your own space.

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape & Design

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

Landscape Layout Service

My Landscape Layout or “Plant Plopper” service is a great asset to anyone planting or filling in existing, or prepared beds by someone with over 20 years of professional gardening and design experience. I have worked on properties for 16 years from full sun to full shade.

My ‘Landscape Layout” service is a great tool for the do-it-yourselfer or anyone who would like to hire their lawn service or general labor for installation. This is a far more cost-effective method than hiring a full service crew who charges a premium but may not know plants. Allow me to use my 20 years of native and adapted plant experience as a full-time gardener both professional and personal as well as my knowledge of professional installations for the last 15 years. I choose the best plants for your space and lay them out for you. All you do is plug and play.

IMG_0805

Proper planting and watering instruction are provided with this service as well as follow up email or phone consultation. Your plants are not guaranteed after installation because my wholesalers do not honor them to me. So instead of charging you a premium for each plant to cover a potential loss, I charge you less and train you how to fix any problems you may have before you lose the plant. This encourages ownership from the customer and an educational experience, not just a purchase of plants. In turn, following up my clients teaches me what works and what may not for future clients. We all live in a microclimate, but there are over 100 beautiful plants I use that are pretty fail safe.

IMG_0450

Above is a combination of color and edibles with mint and thyme for ground cover and an intentional space for seasonal veggies or herbs. Below is a butterfly garden I have laid out for the client to install themselves or have them installed depending on the size of the job, I can also provide installation per request.

If you ever just wished you could call someone who actually knew plants, who could complete your vision and place the plants in your beds to take the guesswork out of it for you, I can do just that.

IMG_0772

Whether you clear and prepare your beds or have them done by someone else, my combination consult and layout service can be of huge value to you.

20160219_173612-1

Proper plant placement is crucial to the final success of the space.

Plant layout is as essential as the plant choice themselves. If you hire a landscape designer you can have a full design prepared for typically anyone to follow if they know plants. If not, or if you want your lawn guys or local labor, or even yourself to have the gratification of planting but not sure of what or where, just tell me your favorite colors  and landscape style and I provide the plant list and layout for you.

IMG_0760.JPG

No matter the size of the project, I have a solution for you and can make your life a lot easier by providing you with a cohesive plant profile that matches your home and lifestyle. Low water, low maintenance.

Rather it is to fill in existing beds…

Or begin new ones…

Before you know it…you will be here in less than a year 🙂

5739BDCB-17B9-41CF-87E2-7E0C7BB4325F

From English Garden to Modern Hill Country

Where do we start? We start with a landscape consultation, (see fee rates) we talk about your needs and see what you want to change or add. If large changes have to be made, you will be given instruction and a possible plant list depending on the size of the job. Should you decide to go forward with my landscape layout service, the consult will assist us in making a list of plants which I will turn into a bid for purchase. If you decide to plant on your own, your consult will provide you with all the information you need for success. Should you wish to hire labor , instruction will be provided on what to look for and how to plant as well as general plant care and fertilization.

 This service requires a $500 minimum which includes approx. 35) 1 gal plants. Once the beds are cleared and prepared I come back with an approved list (or budget) of 1-5 gallon plants and small trees under 15 gallons and lay them out for your approval. I mark each plants location with spray paint and leave the plants to you. 50% deposit is required to order plants and the balance is due immediately upon layout.

Please give me a call at 512-733-7777, or email me at lisalapaso@gmail.com! Spring planting season begins early March to late April and fall season begins early October and ends in mid November. These are small windows of time for optimal planting so call now to get on next seasons list!

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape & Design

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

 

“I Don’t Want It, I Don’t Want It !”

If your plants could speak our language it would be so much easier. The truth is that plants do speak to us by stressing or dying, thriving, surviving and standing the test of time. In my Landscape Consultations over the last 15 years some things are consistent; though most people know they have a problem sudden or long term, they don’t know what they are doing right and which is wrong. Your  plants, trees and sod cannot provide you with a list of do’s and dont’s, so I’m going to give you a quick run down on a few of the things your plants would really like to tell you if they could.

IMG_0443

Number one, PLEASE stop using chemicals if you haven’t already. Chemicals do not work, they kill the soil and make your plants and sod dependent on more chemicals to live. Case in point, there are no chemicals in the woods and they are growing just fine. Why, we ask? Compost. Chemicals kill healthy soil so stop it. Compost and organic fertilizers like liquid seaweed and liquid molasses creates a symbiotic relationship with plants, soil and planet. Compost every spring over your entire property to the depths of 1/4 to 1/2″ including flower and veggie beds, lawn and trees. Throw some on yourself while you’re at it.

Stop over-watering or under-watering. Plants don’t want to be watered every day; they like to dry mostly between watering but not forgotten completely. When plants have a deep watering once a week to every 10 days that allows their roots to grow deeper for a water source. Water in the early morning hours when possible, this prevents fungal issues from too much water on leaves and sod overnight. Plants are always thinking about their future, they don’t want us to waste the water that will keep them here in the next century, so only water when needed. There is no such thing as a set schedule, Mother Nature does not work that way. If it rains turn off your system and test it often for breaks and leaks. The best way to determine if your plants are getting enough water is to stick your hands in the soil and feel for yourself.

Plants need mulch, shredded hardwood mulch is an excellent medium for bedding because it breaks down into healthy soil, which happens in the woods in the form of dead animals, dying trees and leaves. Mulch holds moisture which regulates soil temps and creates a barrier from weed seeds. You should have a minimum of 4 inches of mulch for the best results. Add more mulch every fall to maintain depth and color. Never use colored mulch like black or red or huge mulch pieces. Colors are dyed and absolutely are killing certain shrubs and plants. I am seeing it all the time now in the builders beds and newer properties where the black mulch is now so popular. It also doesn’t break down the same. Large pieces can leach more nitrogen from the soil than they provide to break down, they float away and shredded mulch does neither.

Don’t walk on their roots, they don’t like it! 😦 This goes for trees too. Once you prepare your beds and plants, stay out of them except for maintenance and that includes animals and children. No plant wants to be wee wee’d on and stamping feet means compacted soil. If your breed of dog (or kids) are runners, create a path then design around it. Be artistic with a rock or mulch “run” if you will, and place plants around the space or path to allow a symbiotic relationship with everyone. Doggy gets her run and plants get their place. Remove sod from at least 2 feet from the base of your trees, and much larger around mature trees for a flat mulched tree ring. Just an inch or so of mulch and nothing else, making sure not to cover your trees’ root flair at the base of the tree. Compost the tree ring each spring and mulch it each fall. DO NOT DO THIS! (below)

IMG_1441

This an improper way to mulch a tree, you should always see the flair, or bell shape of the bottom of the trunk, it should not look like a stick coming out of the mulch. I call this a muffin top mulch job.

No muffin tops please! I have yet to meet a man or woman who thought a muffin top was a good look on them and yet some people think their trees love looking that way. Don’t you realize that the other trees are making fun of them? They look crazy for goodness sakes. Not to mention, you’re killing them :/ yes, the number one reason trees get sick aside from a vector (biter or sorts) is over buried tree roots and tree root flair. True story so stop that too.

FE5912D6-6083-41A1-BC59-2DA496FA6004

Don’t forget about us :(. Walk through the garden and really look at what is going on. If you are out every Saturday for 10 minutes pulling weeds, you won’t have a weed problem. If you catch bugs and pests issues early on, there is an organic remedy for just about anything. If you visit your plants and trees for their general welfare, they repay you in calm energy, they never tell your secrets and you will be surprised in even the smallest space of the miracles you will witness if you are present.

Be in the moment, in your own space and time…

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape & Design

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

“like” me on Facebook

Check me out on YouTube

Beautiful, Healthy Basil

My absolute favorite herb and there are so many healthy reasons to love it!

Lisa's Landscape & Design

I love basil, it hits all the notes for me. Much like cilantro, which is my second fave I’d suppose, it is also a strong and pungent herb that really takes over your senses in a herbaciously delightful manner. Native to India, basil was held in great reverence and was used by Indians to swear their oaths in court.

basil Beautiful flowering Basil

In Italy Basil symbolizes love. Italian suitors signaled their love by courting with a sprig of basil in their hair. Probably the reason I cannot get enough of it 😉 In Mexico it is carried around in the hope of returning a lover’s roving eye.

Basil was found growing around Christ’s tomb after the resurrection, and it has been used in the preparation of holy water in the Greek Orthodox church. Pots of basil are kept around the church alters. In some cultures it was feared that scorpions…

View original post 673 more words