Lisa's Landscape & Design

Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time

The Pandemic Purge, Take Your Space Back.

Mother Tree

I don’t think it’s a secret to anybody at this point that we are in the midst of a pandemic and these events take place about every hundred years or so. They are a steady reminder that mother nature will take things into her own hands when we get out of balance. These anomalies occur when humans become too arrogant or uneducated about the matters of the earth and its flora and fauna.

the Earth is intended to have spaces no man is allowed to pilfer without consequence. These are the lungs of the Earth where Mother Trees live and when her children are disrespected, we will pay for our insolence. Deforestation has lead to outbreaks that would ordinarily be contained in its environment.

In our own yards the same affect is true. When we spread non native plants, tree and grass, douse it in chemical solutions to keep it green and use drinking water to feed the addiction of non native species, what might be the consequences? In Austin, it is algal blooms, erosion issues, water shortages, toxic lakes, invasive species, air pollution and so much more. But you can help, and it’s time to take our yards back.

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More recently winter offered a second reminder that Climate Change is very much real and it does not mean things will get hotter, it means that the weather events will be more intense.


Now that the ice storm has wiped out some of your inventory anyway, there’s no better time to Start with a “choose and purge” session. Mark the plants and trees you plan to keep or get rid of depending on the amount and size of your space. Reduce the clutter and oversized plants to see the bigger picture.

Find an educated consultant like myself to give you direction, or do your home work by educating yourself on the light, water and maintenance needs, as well as native or adapted plants for the hardiness zone in your area. Choose deer resistant varieties if needed and include assorted evergreen in a balance that makes sense all year round. Read and watch videos about Organic gardening for your area including proper planting techniques and organic soil amendments. Then choose your design around your needs. Only use native and adapted plants for our hardiness zone 8 a/b and be sure to research the plants that can withstand heat and cold from 110° to 10° and back again, or just email me and I can help.

Rather you choose modern Hill Country Design, English Garden or a Contemporary Xeriscape, you will want to be intentional with the selection of materials you choose to work with. Here is another area that requires some homework. Go online and watch several sources on how to create a dry river bed, how to build a patio, concrete, digging plants and trees and even irrigation so you have enough information to spot a liar. Then, much like dating, you’ll kiss some frogs, so when you’re bidding be sure you have an apples to apples concept to work from and stick to the plan unless you find a better solution you’re confident about, then research that one too.

There are so many beautiful choices of plants and materials we can use in central Texas and this past year has been a really important reminder that we need to soften our own space and create a living area outside of our home that makes us feel at peace. With a cohesive plan and a competent contractor, you can pick and chose what you prefer to have done and what you wish to do yourself. Big ticket items like stonework and irrigation or grass removal and bed prep can be left to professionals, but you should be able to do a lot on your own with the right tools, determination and education. Even a simple sketch can transform your idea into a reality.

before and after…simple sketches can start the conversation 


If you would like more information on an educational consultation or landscape design for any where in zone 8A/B, please contact me at Lisalapaso@gmail.com. If you are looking for heat seeking, shade loving or edible plants and trees, Just keep surfing right here, because my pages are filled with them.

 

Happy gardening!

Lisa LaPaso

” Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

Online Landscape Consultation, Austin and Zone 8

So let’s just get right to it, 2020 has been a real eye-opener when it comes to how we do business and where our priorities lie. Being the mother of a young adult son with autism, a Landscape Designer and Educational Consultant for the last 20 years in Central Texas, I am well versed in adjustments; but I am more determined than ever to accomplish both at the highest levels. Right now that means I provide services online, and not only does this allow me to safely continue to do what I love, but for you that means you still get a high quality service at a great price.

A46CC1A8-F801-40E9-AB52-AF2BA79E8B5CI charge $225 for one hour of online service, this includes a 30 minute zoom call and a detailed write up including concept sketches without plant detail. (I now also provide in person consultation for difficult topography or large projects for $295 for a 30 minute “walk and talk“, followed by the same detail as the online version.) With either service, this is an opportunity for the client to ask questions of a professional landscape contractor/designer who has over 20 years experience in the Central Texas Landscape. With my online service you still have my undivided attention through Zoom for 30 minutes and the rest of that hour is spent on a detailed write up of our discussion. With either service, you get my professional design and material recommendations, an edited plant list for your space and preference, (to use throughout the years), and a rough sketch to implement or share with a contractor.

You will also receive my detailed direction on all things Gardening from how to properly plant a tree or shrub, to when to plant, how to water, organic protocols and much more. You will also receive a brief write up on design suggestions and a customized plant list edited to your light conditions.

Finally, I send you photo examples of solutions and a basic idea of how to approach them on the budget you have to work with. I also provide examples that speak to your style and the style of your home.

Here are the best candidates for 0nline Consultation:

* Anyone who likes to do it yourself. DIY!

* Anyone who has a few weird spots in the yard they can’t seem to get to grow.

* Anyone with lawn, erosion, or drainage issues who can capture these events on video for discussion.

* Anyone with a predominantly flat yard and a clean pallet, looking for some Design direction. 

* Anyone who would like to learn more about their existing plants, trees, lawn, watering and general maintenance.

* Anyone who has recently purchased a home and doesn’t know what’s actually living in their yard, or what they want to keep or remove.

* Anyone selling their home who would like to know how to give it a quick makeready facelift, for a quick sale.

* Anyone who would like to bid out the work to be done, but would like a designer’s opinion on which materials to use.

* Anyone who’s feeling discouraged in their Central Texas landscape and would like to get excited about it again.

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Details of the Online Consultation service:

* 30 minute Zoom call (including provided email photo and video supported documentation)

* A detailed write up of our conversation including photo examples and or appropriate websites for accurate and detailed information.

* A custom plant list based on your specific light needs. All of the recommended plants are low water, low maintenance, deer resistance upon request, and perennial native or adapted plants.

* A detailed write up of general information and instructions on planting such as technique, timing, watering, soil preparation and lawn care. This will also include my organic protocols and local nurseries that carry the plants I recommend.

* A rough sketch of the concept we discussed as shown above.

* My recently added “Design by the Foot” diagram that shows you how to allocate plants properly.

* Photos of all of my recommended materials such as stone color and shape, River rock and patio stone, metal edging and water features, as well as seating, fire pits, and so much more.

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Online Consultations are provided Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 11 PM. I accept payments through Venmo or Zelle. You can contact me at Lisalapaso@gmail.com for an online or in person appointment to get started on the space you need at the price you can’t beat. I have worked and taught for 25 years in the Central Texas Landscape and all I do is Xeriscape and environmentally friendly gardens while “Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”.

Lisa LaPaso

Hand Drawn Landscape Design

Why does it matter how your design is created? Because aside from receiving a beautiful one of a kind work of art, your vision board and inspiration, it also takes an educated artist to create a landscape that translates your needs, likes and loves all into one cohesive, easy to follow design. 

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Anyone can learn to design on a computer. Most of the software includes plant lists and all. I went to school to learn CAD and did it once for a client who looked at the blueprint style illustration and seemed puzzled, the next design I created was hand drawn and the clients response was all I needed to know. Color and textures are powerful visuals so I began studying the best landscape architects and fell in love with the technique. It’s only as successful as the designer is educated.

If you’re in Austin Texas or the surrounding planting zone 8 a/b, we can design online. Since mid March I have been social distancing for our young adult son with Autism and realized the online designs aren’t just a great service for people out of my service area, but for anyone with a relatively simple layout. Particularly now that many of us are home anyway.

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After consulting for 20 years, simple topography such as drainage and elevation are easily conveyed with video and photos. Downspouts have to be addressed and any flooding or erosion needs to be recorded and accounted for. Lighting is essential to a successful design. All the pretty plants from the Lowes and Home Depot won’t cut it in Central Texas. We need deer resistant, low water, raging sun, 115 in the shade kind of plants, and those begin by knowing the native and adapted plants for our regions/hardiness zone.

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Your designer should ask for your survey, photos of the Sunlight at different times of day and a basic outline of your needs, wants and desires. Photo examples of the types of landscape, patio or pool can be helpful, but your designer should be able to meet the mark fairly quickly if all of your needs are in writing. They should understand the budget if necessary and provide options for cost cutting in plant size or materials. Local stone is always cheaper but you shouldn’t skimp on metal, decking, trees for privacy or quality labor.

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Your designer should work with you on the plants that best suit your taste and you should want to be part of that decision. Look up the plants and do your homework on what’s going into your yard. If something doesn’t speak to you, ask for options. Many times there are several plants that can work in that space, but trust your qualified designer when they tell you otherwise. Don’t bring your azaleas here, this is Central Texas. Where alkaline meets rock and clay, in a dirt splitting drought or all the flooding rain at once. If your designer is too agreeable, move on.

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A design can take weeks or years to complete so a visual with color can help You design with stone and furnishings as well. Your designer should provide you with photo examples of preferred stone, fire pits, water features, fencing or any materials that may help in bidding. Not all designs and concepts are in color and this is an even better reason to look up the plant profile and be sure the layout makes sense, you have a combinations of evergreen and color all year, and you need to know they are a plant specialist for your hardiness zone.

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I spent the first 13 years of my career as a professional Gardener, providing residential installations, consultations and organic education. I eventually moved onto larger and larger jobs including pools, patios, custom metal, irrigation and water features, so there isn’t much I haven’t personally installed or been a part of the process. I use this knowledge to customize each space and make the most of  the assets by creating living spaces, privacy, shade and sustainable practices for a symbiotic relationship with both nature and functionality.

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A designer who has never worked with these plants does not understand the variables of growth rate in sun vs shade, the trimming needed to maintain them, timing of trimming, if you should at all, or how they respond to watering too much, Pests, fertilizers or soil conditions.

Anyone can learn all this from a book, but hands in the soil is the best education you’ll ever get. I am a Master Gardener, certified Landscape Designer, organic and conservation specialist, certified in organics, water conservation and Oak Wilt. None of this has given me the education hands in the dirt have over the last 25 years. Working with a designer who installs or has been in the field is a huge asset to you. We can stay truer to budget, understand the maintenance requirements for specific styles and plants and Draw a pretty cool sketch/design.

While great designs can look a lot of different ways, Xeriscape starts with the right plants, in the right place with the right materials and proper techniques. Your designer should also be your educator. You should receive proper DYI instructions and online support after the sale. Watering, timing, proper planting and local resources for the materials needed to complete the task  should be outlined as well as estimated plants and materials. The theme is “hands on”, from concept to creation and beyond. No matter the style of design that inspires you, be sure your designer has had “Hands On” experience In Central Texas landscapes.

 

Don’t work with your designers referral unless they’re the best people for the job. Try to find at least 3 people to bid on your project and do as much yourself as you can. This not only saves you money, but develops a sense ownership.
Now, more than ever, we all need a sanctuary and there’s no better time to get planning than right now. Lisalapaso@gmail.com.
If you don’t call me, call someone and get started.

Lisa LaPaso

”Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

It’s Xeriscape, not ZeroScape.

Over the last 20 years I’ve seen and heard my fare share of mispronunciations and misspellings of the word Xeriscape, and while it certainly doesn’t bother me, the lack of understanding what Xeriscape is, does. Xeric which is Latin for “xeros“, means dry, and scape, well obviously….it’s a view or scape, as it were. But, That does not necessarily mean rocks and spiky plants like cactus, it can also mean plants that are adapted to your environment and will require the least amount of water.

for clarity, here is a Zeroscape:

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THIS is Xeriscape,

Xeriscape design is using native plants and trees, and rock in an artful fusion. The goal Is not to look like the moon, but to have plants that only require the typical annual rainfall (or runoff ) so you need to subsidize its watering as little as possible. The design needs to be functional, but can also be fantastically colorful and lush, stately and symmetrical, or clean and modern.

Be careful to remember that rock is a zeroscape because it is a no-water solution. It is NOT low maintenance however. Rock beds near weedy areas like green belts or common area can become weed beds themselves, so prepare to get out there and pull and/or treat with organic protocols as needed. Never introduce chemicals into your landscape for weed control. Weed and feed in particular kills everything in its path (says right in the bag in small print), so anything you’re using in your rocks will filter off into your yard in the next rain.

Above, these are all great examples of using rocks is all sizes and colors to add interest and function as well as creating spaces that will not need watering. Walkways, patios and sitting areas are a great use of these materials, particularly when mixed with native and adapted plants and trees for your region.

Now for the fun part, plants! While most people think of these below as your typical Xerophytic plant pallet,

The truth is, in Central Texas, these are Xeriscape too!

The combination of all of these elements are what creates the stunning works of art we call The Hill Country landscape, which is Xerscape, and water collection should be a big part of this too. Cleverly disguised in our landscapes, or prominently displayed, this is a beautiful way to keep water on our property as a back up plan in times of drought, or as a fertility function for mixing with organic food.

Finally, as always, be creative. If you like cactus and rock, choose from a variety of textures and colors that complement one another and add architectural interest to the space. If you are choosing native and adaptive plants, be sure to use compatible plants with similar water needs so that none of the plants in your xeriscape garden need to be babied. This can be accomplished by adding prefered plants that like wet feet, like Ligularia, Almond verbena, or Louisiana iris to low points in the yard that may hold water longer. Also choose deer resistant plants and trees if deers are an issue, or you may be planting an expensive buffet as a landscape.

Soil in Central Texas is typically grey/ beige dirt in a mix of rocks and hard clay. Soil for any garden in central Texas should be amended, and for cactus gardens you definitely want to loosen your soil and add amendments such as vermiculite, granite rock or even P gravel to encourage proper drainage. Cactus will not tolerate long periods of wet feet or even excess rain for that matter. So you need to accommodate them by allowing proper drainage around each plant which can be tough in large rocks and clay. So amending your soil with things like vermiculite or crushed granite rock mixed into your soil and compost, can help keep the soil from compacting beneath your plant, and provide proper drainage. Some hyper natives in the Central Texas landscape cannot tolerate overly amended (fertilized) soil. So it’s also important to educate yourself on the needs of the plants you choose so you can create a symbiotic environment for them all. Wouldn’t it be a lovely world if we could do that for everyone, even the spiky ones?

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Now go get your Xeriscape on, and email me at lisalapaso@gmail.com if you’re interested in a Xeriscape design to get you started!

Lisa LaPaso

”Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

Every Color Tells the Story

Much like all the beautiful skin colors that create the stunning tapestry of humanity; Mother Nature, In her infinite wisdom, created a world of contrast and textures, furs and feathers, and a spectrum of colors in every hue. In my space, I believe that if the universe created this incredible palette of colors, wouldn’t it would be insulting of me not to use them? But, that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, so my job as a Landscape Designer and Educational Consultant is to pull together the colors that tell your story and blend it into one cohesive picture.

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When it comes to people we should all be color blind, but with flora, the world is our oyster. Color invokes passion, spirituality, solemn, peace, Life, energy, earth and sky.

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Most people think of landscape color in terms of pastels or bold, but there are hints of color which can change the affect that light has on them. Orange is one of the dividing colors. You love it or you don’t much care about it, but orange is actually the color of energy, creativity and it’s also the color of safety. Additionally, using orange  flowers is a great way to detract from outdated orange or brick colored facades that many Hill Country homes still have, and it lends well to the old saying that “if you can’t beat em, join em”.

With the promise of love, compassion, and femininity, pink is certainly a favorite amongst a lot of women, in particular those who like pastel colors and are a little turned off by red which can take on different connotation on together. Pink, the close cousin of red, is a great way to introduce some bright tones in a shade garden, as well as in sun. There are many pink flowering plants for hardiness zone 8 a/b for part shade to sun.

A great way to design with a dramatic affect is to use opposite colors on the color wheel. So for example mixing colors like blue and yellow, or purple and orange can create contrast and you can be sure they will be symbiotic. However, there are very few rules when it comes to using colors in the landscape except for balance. Bold colors such as red, can overpower the landscape if it’s not used judiciously, or thoughtfully. Reds can range from very pink to very blue tones, so it is also important with bold colors to stay in the color family. In this case opposing colors on the color wheel are red and green, and is very dramatic on its own. Many red flowering plants will take from sun to shade in Central Texas, so do your homework on those who thrive in both, then use those plants as your anchor throughout the space.

Cool tones such as purples and blues are not as affected in a design because they tend to vary from blending arrays of colors that last then fade into tones from lavender to blue. For this reason purple and blue can be very interchangeable in the landscape and are extremely effective for moonlight gardens because of their ability to change in the moonlight. One important rule when using cool tones together, is that there must be a contrast and as well as combination of flowering plants and textural leaves for the big picture affect to the final design concept. When plants are a little too comfortable together they tend to get lost in the crowd, so adding textures and silver leaved, or shiny versus velvety, etc. The color purple is the color of royalty, intrigue and spirituality. It plays well with others and can pretty much be used in any pallet.