Now My Dream Texas Garden

by Celia Hayes

In my last post I outlined what I would like to have as my dream Texas dream retirement home; a lot about the houses and some generalities about the landscape. I'd like a slightly rolling property, oriented towards the west, and studded with a handful of oak trees and a bit of a wildflower meadow at a slight distance. I didn't put in much about the garden around it ... just that there would be one. Being that I would like this dream home in the Hill Country someplace, I'd have to take care of the tender plants during those cold winter snaps when it gets down to or below freezing. Plants that scrape through a cold snap in San Antonio would not do as well during the winter in the Hills ... so I would have to have some kind of accommodation for them. A permanent small greenhouse would be a graceful addition to my notion of a compound of small cottages – especially one of those ornate Victorian style ones.

I'd actually look to having a good-sized vegetable and herb garden; what I have now but expanded at least four times. I have read good things about straw-bale gardening – that is, raised beds constructed of straw-bales. In any case, raised beds, and filled with good soil and the proper nutrients. A good-sized kitchen garden would have to be surrounded with a stout wire fence, though. It is exasperating to have a good crop of tomatoes or squash coming in, only to discover that hungry rodents have helped themselves. I'd have a good variety of kitchen herbs, too – hanging from baskets, of course. Herbs seem to do incredibly well in coconut-fiber lined baskets; this year I have one with a thyme plant spilling over the side and hanging halfway to the ground – and I've never before gotten thyme to thrive in a terra cotta pot. Perhaps I'd connect two of the cottages with an arbor of unpeeled cedar poles, to hang the baskets of herbs from.

I'd add a scattering of trees to the oaks on my dream property; at least a couple of almond verbenas, which start as shrubs and with any encouragement at all turn into medium sized ornamental trees. They are not much to look at, but the clusters of tiny flowers have the most amazing sweet almond smell. I'd have some redbud trees for the look of them, and finally a couple of bearing fruit trees; peaches, or plums most likely, and a good pecan tree, too. The trees would bridge the gap between the practical vegetable garden, and the ornamental garden – which would be heavily tilted towards native and native-adapted plants which look after themselves, pretty much.

There would be roses, though – I couldn't get along without roses, although they would also be the hardy sorts, and picked out more for their scent than their appearance. There would be shrubs to attract birds, butterflies and bees, much as I have now, only spread out a little more generously. I'd have a large area close to the entertainment kitchen and the grill paved in brick or stone ... and that is where the main garden ornament would be; a fountain; a good-sized tall stone one, rather like the ones that adorn the private courtyards in the old houses I used to see in Spain, with a wide enough ledge to sit on surrounding the lower pool. And when I had a party, the guests could enjoy the sound of trickling water, the scent of almond verbena, and look at the late afternoon sun setting in the distance ...

and that is my dream Texas Hill Country garden – what is yours?