Lisa's Landscape & Design

Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time

Edible Landscapes in Austin

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

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

Edible landscapes don’t have to be square.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lisa, LaPaso, Landscape, Design, Consultation, low water

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

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

Happy Edible Gardening!

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape & Design

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

 

The Guaranteed Gardener!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) It’s the right thing to do.

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

Happy Gardening,

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape and Design

”Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

Guaranteed

“Everybody Needs a Piece of The Lisa!”

Step by step instructions to a successful landscape.

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Control Freak Much?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape and Design

” Saving The Planet One Yard at a Time”

Consult Before Construction!

Do you know that most Landscape companies are large firms with lots of overhead, a few highly qualified people who make a small talent pool with lots of so, so qualified labor? The up side, they carry insurance and lots of it. If you use them, ask for it and you want $1,000,000,000, in coverage but 2 million would be better. Especially in Austin when your house costs that anyway.

Did you know that a smaller company can be a better price, a better long-term relationship (lack of turnover) and a better over all value,  If …you know what you’re doing? Many small landscape business like mine back in the day, carry a million in insurance and you need a copy of it if you’re concerned. Call the company to confirm its authenticity…I’ve seen it all 🤨

I’ve owned a small landscape business in Austin Texas for 17 years now and I did construction for about 12 of them, but I was a full-time, personal gardener for the first 5 years in business. I am a Master Gardener, Certified in water conservation, Oak Wilt prevention and native and adapted organic plant and soil care. My specialty is easy plant care because I raised two kids with Autism and I have other sh*t to do. Over the last year or so I decided I no longer enjoyed the construction aspect because as Austin grew, so did the greed and money available to take. Too many “landscapers” and contractors with little to no talent and a shovel full of fast talk and up-sells are working in our yards.

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Why wouldn’t they tell you they know how to do something even if they don’t , they make a big profit and many times will never see you again. The real goal is establishing a relationship with these people for a long term relationship and self-education is knowing the difference between someone who says they know what they’re doing and someone who actually does.

 

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In a one hour consultation I will send you in the right direction for plants, stone work, tree choices and so much more. Best of all, I’m not there to Sell you a Thing! I’m there to educate you with your budget in mind and your willingness to do any of the work or not.

 

A Landscape Consultation is remarkable tool for the home owner because an educated consumer is a scammers downfall, if you’re only bidding on what you need and not what they tell you to get, your already saving money.

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Deer resistant landscape, austin, design, lisa, lapaso

I charge an average of $150-175 an hour for this information, but you can also do your reasearch for your hardiness zone and soil type. Visit the rock yards and learn how much materials really cost. Ask your laborer for a full bid including the cost of materials and labor so you understand what you’re paying for. This avoids “add-ons” after the sale which is a notorious trick of the trade.

 

I raised two kids with Autism with my husbands single income, while building a home and a business, so I know what it means to be on a budget and probably always will. Your money has value and so do your needs and that should be respected and given out of the passion for the job. I LOVE what I do because I am an advocate for my clients and I sleep well teaching them the many “tricks and thievery” that’s been demonstrated to me over my many years as a Contractor working with subcontractors, and as a company with my own crew.

Here are a few more quick tips:

1) Never use Landscape Fabric, it’s an Up Sell. People make a ton of money off of it by buying it by the roll and it’s worthless. Weeds plow right through it, it’s too hot for the soil and doesn’t allow water to permeate well at all. Garbage unless it’s for river rock on a hill, in bad drainage in a creek bed or around a tree.

Instead, use at least 4 to 6 inches of hardwood shredded mulch, ( no colors) this holds in moisture, prevents weeds and soil erosion.

2) Choose your plants from only native and adapted plant lists. Allowing your lawn guy to buy you plants from the Home Depot that are for hardiness zones n New Hampshire is not goin to help you in Texas.

My advice: choose from the many lists of plants native to your area and hardiness zone, and only support the nurseries that carry them.

3) No one likes maintenance, and the only reason people have to maintain their landscape plants and trees should be out of health and removal of dormant materials when needed. The reason however, that so many people are constantly in the beds with trimmers is because YOUR PLANTS ARE TOO CLOSE TOGETHER, or you planted the wrong plant in the wrong place. It’s not the plants fault that you let that guy or girl plant a 6×6 plant in a 3 x 3 spot. Worse yet, you inherited a builders bed or previous home owners mess who had no idea what they were doing and now you don’t either…the photo below very well demonstrated how quickly things can get out of control. Before you know it you’re Edward Scissorhands without the talent.

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A Consultation is to decide what to keep and what to remove. I’m not telling you to rip it all out, I need to show you how to salvage what you have and what to add to make it better. Sometimes that is removal, but I don’t make money by suggesting it like the landscaper does.

I’m an educated Landscape Designer as well as having dug the actual holes, and carried the actual 40 lb bags of rock and mulch, I’ve also planted and cared for thousands of plants and trees and now I’m using that talent to save you money. I can do even better by providing a design or sketch for an additional cost. This tool can then be used for bidding and conveyance, or for doing it yourself over a few weekends or years.

 

If you can find a landscape consultant in your area, particularly one who is only there to teach you, take advantage of this valuable service because they are your first defense against contractors and uneducated “professionals “.

 

If you find a consultant who also does the work, that’s outstanding, just make sure you take 3 bids so you know what you’re paying for. Referring good people keeps good people working and that’s the advantage of media. It’s also your ally against unscrupulous landscapers and contractors who take from 10 to 20 percent on your sale, and additional sub contractors. The more you know, the faster you weed out the bad guys.

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape and Design

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

lisalapaso@gmail.com!